Blog Title: The Ilk of Humankind: Mental health, Human nature, Life
Bio: Dr. Zacchia is a clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of anxiety disorders, depression and interpersonal problems. He received his PhD from McGill University in 1987. From 1997 to 2011, he was the chief psychologist for the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and chaired their Clinical Ethics Committee for a seven year period. He left that position in 2011 to develop and direct the Mental Health Education Office of the Institute.
He wrote a bi-weekly column in the Montreal edition of Metro from 2005 to 2015 and has maintained a mental health blog since 2007.
I don't want to die any more than anyone else. And as a psychologist I take suicide prevention very seriously. But when I deal with a suicidal individual it is with the conviction that, if the person can get through this difficult period, a better and more normal life awaits. When someone is facing a degenerative condition there is no returning to normal.
We get so blinded by this tribal zeal that we support anything our side says or does. In sports your guys are always fair and the other guys are always either cheating, playing dirty or whining. We saw this in the last American election. There is no shortage of blinded loyalty to your side and that's the danger of identity politics.
Social anxiety is a normal human instinct. Being concerned with what others think makes us conform to social groups. This enhances relationships, makes us love and care for children, and ultimately ensures the survival of the species. But the nature and degree of social anxiety evolves and transforms throughout the life cycle. But in high school it takes on a new dimension. It is one that plays out in the heads of others.
Hats off to all those incredible human specimens competing in the Olympics. I am truly in awe of all of them. If you are one of those people who sits on your sofa all day criticizing athletes who don't win medals in events they were favoured in, try getting on a bike and timing yourself.
Seeing an innocent member of your 'team' die tragically feeds this sense of 'us and them.' Micah Johnson, the Dallas shooter, did not see fathers, sons or brothers. He only saw white people and cops. This is the same mentality that fuels the atrocities of ISIS. When we see a group instead of an individual we feel justified in killing an innocent member of that group. Trained as a soldier, Johnson only saw 'the enemy.'
People occasionally get angry enough to lash out at someone or at a group. People sometimes get scared enough to fear for their lives. People sometimes make simple mistakes. People sometimes wish they were dead. Under all of these circumstances, having a gun nearby will make any action lethal.
Living in a normal world, with exposure to many aspects of cultural and intellectual life, will allow us to reach our fullest capacity. That's pretty good. But this doesn't mean we can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear and create geniuses by throwing more stimulation at a kid.
The ability to imagine what another person would think or feel is referred to as the theory of mind. It is this that helps us realize that another person's mind is distinct from our own. When six-year olds point out physical flaws they are simply responding to their own curiosity. They have no idea that this might hurt people. To realize the impact of these observations would require the ability to be in someone else's head.
The true measure of a man is in his heart and his character. The character defined by his generosity of spirit, by what he makes of the lot life hands him, and by the maturity with which he faces adversity and accepts misfortune.
In mental illness, we are constantly mixing apples and oranges. The causes are not the same and neither are the treatments. When we lump them together we create more confusion. And when there is lack of clarity, we tend to fill the gaps in knowledge with myths, superstitions, and mistaken attributions. That's when the quacks come out.
So what is depression? It isn't like a typical disease that can be measured with a lab test. For this reason I think the best way to see depression is as a symptom. It is a mood state characterized by sadness or loss of pleasure. The question is what is creating the symptom?
That star has become a family icon. I'm fairly sure that if my house was on fire, the first thing I would try to save would be that star. My wife still cries when she takes that tattered star out of the box.
When I ask clients, friends and family how they would want to die, so far no one has chosen, "I'd like to die after lying in bed for two or three years, in a diaper, and barely aware of my surroundings." Yet isn't this scenario -- or a variant of it -- how a large percentage of us will die?